The 9th Ad Age Digital Conference kicked off today in New York with a packed first day lineup. Some of the hot topics addressed today included viewability, humanity, and failing.
The morning’s first discussion between Rob Norman, Global Chief Digital officer at GroupM and Lisa Valentino, SVP, Digital Sales at Conde Nast, surprised some in the audience when the two executives vaguely discussed the terms of a recent deal where Conde Nast agreed to only charge GroupM’s clients for ads that were guaranteed to be viewed by consumers. While 100% viewability is never a guarantee, the two partners stressed that they reached an acceptable & agreed upon viewability level for their ad units.
The afternoon panel “The Story Makers” talked about the evolution of storytelling to storymaking – where consumers work with brands to create the story. Hirschhorn stated that it can be much less risky for brands to enter stories already being told rather than create one of their own. Anne Lewnes, SVP and CMO of Adobe, showed an inspiring video celebrating Adobe Photoshop’s 25 year anniversary wholly created with user-generated imagery and exhorts viewers to “Dream On.”
We loved the “Fail Fast Forward” series of 10 minute vignettes, that highlighted a “fail” moment, the learning, and what was implemented to “fix” things. Meredith Kopit Levien, EVP, Advertising, New York Times, led with the story of a 161-year old article in the Times about Solomon Northup, aligned with the release of Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave, and a subsequent Gawker piece entitled “This Is the 161-Year-Old New York Times Article About 12 Years a Slave” that performed way, way better than the Times piece about the original article.
The three actions the Times took? One was to “defy the gravity of tradition”, by embracing the notion that finding the audience is just as important as the story itself — Alexandra MacCallum was recently appointed to audience development and there is now a “masthead level” or leadership-level focus on finding the right audience. Two was to “Invent new ways to create value” which spurred the creation of T-Brand Studio and the Times’ entrance into the branded content biz, continuing striving to create content that makes people feel things, regardless of whether it is paid or not. Number 3. is to “never lose sight of what got us there in the first place” summed up with two simple words: Quality. Storytelling.
Our favorite quotable from the “Moving at the Speed of Culture” interview with Beats by Dre’s Omar Johnson: Jimmy Iovine said to me one day “What’s a SWAT? Your job is to sell headphones, right?” We had to work at a speed that most brands don’t have to. And they live it every day – Beats agency, R/GA, has to present every idea on one slide. Love this challenge!
Atlas’ Jennifer Kattula wrapped the day eloquently with “Five Things Marketers Ought to Know,” challenging us to move on from the Four Ps from Philip Kotler’s 1967 book Marketing Management, to the 4 Cs…. from Product to Choice, Price to Convenience, Place to Cross-Device, and Promotion to Creative Sequencing. Some compelling stats within, including touting the cookie’s demise and how people-based marketing is more effective for reaching the right people at the right time – something that digital marketers have a responsibility to aim higher on.
Advertising holding company leaders gripe that the industry lags in tapping and nurturing good talent.
WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell, appearing on a panel with IPG’s Michael Roth and Omnicom’s John Wren at the 4A’s conference in Austin, blasted the advertising industry’s “criminal neglect” in finding, recruiting, and keeping top talent. Instead of devoting time and resources to executive development, “if we need talent, we steal them.” he said. Holding companies should have a “chief talent officer” who identifies and nurtures good performers.
The three execs, in a rare appearance together, agreed that the industry needs to do a better job recruiting from business schools, film schools and art schools.
Sure, the ad biz competes with other industries for talent. But with so many people out of work and young college graduates eager to join the workforce, are promising, potential stars so hard to find?
These top industry executives probably weren’t around for earlier sessions at the conference when college students studying advertising and marketing in Austin asked questions about opportunities in the industry. (Perhaps the 4A’s should include promising ad students in part of their program next year…?)
Three cheers for Ronda Carnegie, TED’s global partnership director. She spoke up after the bigwig panel, saying “the best talent is sitting in your organization and you don’t know who they are…They’re there.”